Chemistry Newsletter 2014

Chair’s Column

Greetings from USD Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry!

It is my pleasure to share with you some of the exciting achievements and goings-on in the department over the last year. We welcomed our newest faculty member, Dr. Joe Provost, in August 2013 and he has been a magnificent addition to the department. His research lab has created quite a buzz among the students so he has his hands full! Department faculty members deserve great praise for contributing to and growing the department’s reputation in both undergraduate teaching and research. Collectively, in the past year we published 13 papers, gave over 35 presentations at national conferences and invited talks, mentored over 100 research students (including 32 during summer 2013) 25 of whom presented their work at non-USD conferences and brought in over $800,000 in external funding including a new grant for Dr. Peter Iovine (NSF-RUI). A milestone was also reached at the sciences at USD as we were awarded a prestigious grant from the Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation Scholars Program! Congratulations to Dr. Debbie Tahmassebi for crafting the successful proposal that, in part, celebrates the remarkably strong and successful research programs of science faculty. You can read more about the program at

USD Chemistry and Biochemistry students and faculty continue to achieve great and notable awards.  In the past year, the following honors were received:

Dr. Dwyer - Artwortk by Shannen Cravens '11

Artwork by Shannen Cravens '11

Student Awards and Achievement

Student (Graduation Year) Award/Fellowship/Scholarship

Sarah Baker (Biochemistry ’15)

USD Chemistry & Biochemistry Alumni Research Fellowship (Summer 2014)

Nicholas Huynh (Biochemistry ’15)
Lea Kiefer (Biochemistry ’15)

Alice B. Hayes Science Scholarship (2014-2015)

Carl Ferber (‘16)

Alice B. Hayes Science Fellowship (Summer 2014)

Courtney Chow (’13)
Philip Guichet (’13)

Phi Beta Kappa

Elizabeth Webster (Chemistry ’15)

Alfred and Mabel Beckman Foundation Scholar (2014-2015)

Faculty Awards and Achievements

Faculty Member Award

Lauren Benz

2014 Rising Star Award (Women Chemists Committee of the ACS)

Mitch Malachowski

2014 CUR Fellow Award (Council on Undergraduate Research)

Mitch Malachowski

2014 Outstanding Research Mentor Award (USD)

Pete Iovine

2014 University Professorship

I’d also like to tell you about the superb track record USD Chemistry and Biochemistry has established in supporting post-doctoral fellows who aspire to become teacher-scholars at primarily undergraduate institutions. Funded through federal research grants (NSF CAREER and RUI, NIH R15) to individual faculty members (Peter Iovine, David De Haan, Tim Clark and Lauren Benz), USD post-docs have helped to enhance research programs while also gaining valuable mentored teaching experiences. To date, we have had 6 research post-docs in the department, five of whom have successfully earned tenure-track faculty positions at PUIs. Two additional post-doc positions have been secured through a College initiative. Here is a summary of our terrific program:

Post-doctoral fellows in the department 2009 - PRESENT

Fellow Mentor/Funding Year Post-USD employment
Andrew Korich

Peter Iovine/

2009-2011 Grand Valley State University (MI), Department of Chemistry
Lelia Hawkins David De Haan/
2010-2011 Harvey Mudd College (CA),
Department of Chemistry
Andrew Roering Tim Clark/NIH R15 2011-2013 SUNY Courtland (NY),
Department of Chemistry
Melissa Galloway David De Haan/
2012-present Lafayette College (PA),
Department of Chemistry
Lisa Ryno Peter Iovine/
Dreyfus Teacher-Scholar
2013-2014 Oberlin College (OH),
Department of Chemistry
Fang Yan Tian Lauren Benz/
Katherine McGarry Tim Clark/
Arijit Sengupta Peter Iovine/NSF RUI Beginning 6/2014  
Melanie Zauscher David De Haan/College of Arts & Sciences Beginning 9/2014  
Joselyn Del Pilar Albaladejo Lauren Benz/College of Arts & Sciences Beginning 9/2014  

Lastly, I hope to see many of you at our Alumni Reunion and Research Fundraiser in July! We appreciate hearing from you and keeping in touch – remember to find us on Facebook (University of San Diego Chemistry and Biochemistry) and LinkedIn (send a request to join the group “University of San Diego Chemistry and Biochemistry”).

Warmest regards,


Department News

Health and Wellness at USD


As a way to promote Health and Wellness at USD, the Human Resources department offered the Thrive Across America program.  Thrive Across America is an online physical activity program where you travel from Maine to Hawaii, along a virtual route. On the way you’ll visit more than 50 of our country’s most treasured outdoor attractions, brought to life with vivid pictures and detailed descriptions. Each time you record physical activity minutes, you move along a virtual route that winds through the United States, passing through America’s most exciting outdoor attractions. Based on the animated Powerpuff Girls characters, Sharon Ferguson, Tammy Gillespie, Desiree Harpe, Jess Kramer, Jayna MacLeod & Danielle Steussy (from the Marketing Department), joined forces to create the ultimate exercise team.  Each day we’d support and inspire each other for “Exercising Our Powers for Good”.  Out of 40 teams, the Powerpuff Girls finished in 15th place! One of the many great benefits at USD is the unlimited access to the Mission’s Fitness Center, which offers FREE access to the gym facilities and pool. Fitness classes are also available, which include yoga, pilates, zumba and cardio training, and are MUCH less expensive than any gym or studio.  Check it out!


Update on Instrumentation in the Department
Dr. Helene Citeau, Director of Scientific Instruments


Despite limited funding for capital equipment this past year, the USD Chemistry & Biochemistry Department continues its efforts to provide students access to state-of-the-art scientific instrumentation in a safe environment. Our latest acquisition, a CEM microwave reactor, complete with software and autosampler, was purchased to replace an obsolete and non-functional Biotage reactor. The main benefits of microwave synthesizers compared to conventional bench-top syntheses are the increased speed of reactions and the use of smaller amount of reagents. This last advantage is critical to align with our campus’ goal of generating less waste, and even more essential as these wastes can often be toxic chemicals.

The new reactor can run up to 12 samples in full automated mode, and can easily be configured for open-flask reactions, something the previous reactor could not do. Twenty years ago, microwave-assisted chemistry experiments involved the use of a kitchen microwave, and were limited to open flask configuration. Straightforward and cheap, these experiments were also hard to reproduce. Modern microwaves use precise irradiation, with accurate control over temperature inside the microwave cavity, and are usually configured for closed vessel reactions. Several research groups already heavily use our new CEM microwave reactor, and we hope to see more interesting microwave-assisted synthesis experiments in our teaching laboratories.

Finally, we continue to develop strong ties with major instrument manufacturers, who now offer in-house training and technical seminars, open to faculty & students alike, several times during the year. It is not uncommon to meet, among the world of scientific instruments manufacturers, alumni from our department. Such encounters are always a great opportunity for faculty and alumni alike to reunite, and we hope that our alumni can spread the word about the multiple career opportunities in the world of scientific instrumentation!

Student News Back to top

2014 Alumni Summer Research Fellowship Award


One of the distinguishing features of USD Chemistry and Biochemistry is the capacity to offer significant research experiences to our undergraduates. Alumni from our department have given back generously to support research by current undergraduates.  The Alumni Summer Research Fellowship recipient for 2014 is Sarah Baker (Biochemistry ’15). Sarah will spend summer 2014 in the laboratory of Dr. James Bolender studying various chemical methods to control the size distribution of various lanthanide based nanocrystals. Being able to control the sizes of these nano particles will allow for them to potentially be developed int various drugs or devices.

Thank you to alumni and friends of the department who gave generous donations to the Alumni Summer Research Fellowship fund, whether you were able to attend the June 2013 reunion or not. We sincerely appreciate your contributions! We intend to hold the alumni reunion and fundraiser biennially and our next event will be in summer 2014.

Our ability to offer the Alumni Summer Research Fellowship each year depends on the generous support of our terrific alumni and friends of the department. It makes us enormously proud to know that our alumni “give back” and wish to provide exceptional opportunities for summer research experiences to current and future students. In this ongoing effort, we are presently fundraising to support one or more students for summer 2015. If you are able to make a contribution to help fund a summer research fellowship in the department, please click on the following link and make your donation now. We are so proud and grateful for your support!

Donate now!

BRIDGES Program Update

This past year we sent 2 students for summer research experiences at larger, graduate-degree granting institutions through our fabulous Bridges Program.  Taryn Parsons (’14) worked in Dr. Karen Goldberg’s lab at the University of Washington, synthesizing pincer ligands for a palladium based organometallic complex with potential application as a green epoxidation catalyst.  Bette Webster (’15) worked for biochemist Dr. Eranthie Weerapana at Boston College on the synthesis, characterization, and testing of a number of probes for use in determining the role of certain protein activities in cancer and degenerative diseases.   Both students had a wonderful experience.  We wish Bette and Taryn the best as they plan their future careers!

Alumni News Back to top

Alumni: Save the Date

Saturday, July 12th, 2014 - The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry invites you to the 2014 Summer Reunion and Research Fundraiser. This year’s event will be a family BBQ with activities for the kids, updates on Department news, and a raffle. Registration information will be sent out via email and posted on the Department website soon! All funds raised during this event go towards the Alumni Summer Research Fellowship, which provides financial support to one or more USD students to do summer research in the Department. Previous awardees include Michael Bagley (2012), Alyssa Rodriguez (2013), and Alexandra Heller (2013). If you are interested in volunteering or donating raffle items for the event, please contact Debbie Finocchio (; 619-260-2276).

Note: Our event is same weekend as the 2014 USD VIP Wine Dinner (Saturday, July 12th, 2014, evening) and the 2014 USD Wine Classic (Sunday, July 13th, afternoon).  We encourage you to plan to join us for all three events. Information regarding the Wine Dinner and Wine Classic (including ticket information) is available at:


Interviews with Alum


Dr. Matt Barden ‘05

Dr. Barden went to medical school at the Keck School of Medicine at USC. He is currently Chief Resident and completing his training in emergency medicine at Loma Linda University Medical Center.

Can you provide an outline of events and timeline of your life and career since graduation from USD and leading up to where you are now?

I decided on medicine during my senior year at USD. At the time, the MCAT was only offered twice a year, so it took me some time before I was ready to apply. I planned on working for a year while I got my application together. My faculty advisor at USD helped me find a great job in the biotech industry in Sorrento valley. It was at an analytical and development lab at a pharmaceutical contract company called Pharmatek. Not long after graduation I also married my wife Katherine (Argyros) Barden who was a biology major at USD and also class of 2005. During this time I was also applying and interviewing for medical school. The first year I got into a school in Ohio, where I grew up. But my wife was a lifelong Californian and was concerned about moving away from her family with me being a busy med student. We decided to wait a year and try again. During that year I continued to work at Pharmatek and I also volunteered and shadowed in a few different emergency rooms and got to know some physicians who were able to mentor me on the process. The second year applying I was fortunate enough to get into the Keck School of Medicine at USC. I got a great medical education at USC, and my exposure to the busy LA County ER reaffirmed my thoughts that I wanted to be an Emergency Medicine doctor. Our son George was born just before graduation. After medical school I went on to Emergency Medicine residency at Loma Linda University Medical Center. I have loved my time here in Loma Linda, and I am now in the final few months of my training. I was elected chief resident this year, which has allowed me to play a big role in the academic and educational side of the residency training for the more junior doctors. This year has also brought another addition to our family, as Catherine is expecting our second child any day now. Next year I will be working full time at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, as well as part time as at Riverside County, which is one of the teaching sites for my current residency with Loma Linda.

How did your USD education prepare you for success in your career?

I got a great science education, and I also developed life long learning skills. Most of what I use in my career is not what I directly learned in my undergrad classes, but I did gain a broad based background in science, as well as the skills to continue to teach myself what I need to learn. I also really value the non-science classes I took at USD. Throughout my medical education, I have encountered people who ask me "how did you know that". My answer is that I took an Ancient Greek history class, or a senior level seminar on the poetry of Blake. I definitely believe in the liberal arts ideals of 'knowledge for the sake of knowledge', and have found that I am often surprised by how useful connections and deeper understanding can develop due to a broad based education.

When/how did you decide on a career in the medicine?

I had the mentality when I was younger that I should resist career planning. I thought that the point of going to college was to learn as much about as many things as you could and then see where that education takes you. Looking back, this was silly because thinking ahead can never hurt, but luckily I figured that out eventually. I remember the exact moment I decided on medicine. I was out to lunch with my now wife. We were discussing all our classmates who were planing on applying to med school. She said "you know who would be good at medicine? You". I remember that as a eureka moment. Of course that would be the perfect thing for me! I have always wanted to do something that matters, possibly to the level of having a hero complex, I also loved science and the natural world as long as I could remember. Doing something that uses science to make a difference in people's lives individually should have been my obvious choice. I had just never thought of it.

Can you describe a typical day in your professional life?

My days are largely unpredictable. The ER is open 24-7-365, so I work holidays, weekend, nights, mornings, afternoons, evenings, in a a random and circadian rhythm disrupting schedule. What happens in the ER is also unpredictable, we see and treat whatever type of patient comes through the doors. Some days are slow and relatively easy. Some days seem impossibly hard and stressful. We see bad traumas from gang violence in the nearby cities of San Bernardino and Riverside, as well as car accidents from the freeways and mountain roads. Usually a 10 hour shifts includes at least one or two critically ill patient who would die eminently without expedient intervention. I quite frequently put in endotracheal breathing tubes, central venous catheters, and perform thoracostomies for collapsed lungs. A few times a month someone will come into the ER clinically dead, and I will be able to resuscitate them with electric shock or powerful cardiac medications. Sometime they eventually fully recover and come back weeks later to say thank you. I have an amazing job. I feel very luck to do something that I love, that I know in my core makes a difference in people's lives every day.

What stands out for you about your time as a student at USD that prepared you the most for your career/present position?

USD is very unique in that it offers a great hard science education while also offering intimate faculty involvement and a strong liberal arts focus as well. Many other universities have giant lecture halls with classes taught by TA's. In contrast, during my senior year at USD I took 'Nucleic Acid Chemistry' taught by a biochistry PhD with 6 total students. I got to personally know all of the chemistry professors during my time at USD. That kind of focused attention really seems unheard of elsewhere, at the undergraduate level anyway. The resources available at USD are amazing, but more so is the attention given to making sure undergraduate students get the most possible out of those resources. When I graduated I was ready to work in the chemical or biochem or pharmaceutical industries, or as I chose, to excel at furthering my education.

What advice to you have for current USD student considering medical school and a similar career path?

Medicine is a fantastic path. I would warn students that it is a very hard path. I think I under appreciated the demands of the training. Recent laws have decreased the hour limits, but we still 80 hour weeks and up to 30 hours of continuous duty. The training takes the brightest and most motivated young people, and pushes them to their limits. The historical culture of medicine demands commitment beyond what is expected in other walks of life. I am very happy with my path, but those choosing it should know what they are in for.

What do you value the most about your USD education?

In terms of the classes I took, I value the individualized student focus and close interation with faculty who really cared about our education. Beyond the education, USD has a special place in my heart not only as a university, but as a major part of my life. I made lifelong connections while I was at USD. I met my wife at USD. I truely enjoyed my time at USD, but moreso I am thankful for the opportunites it has lead to, and the life USD has helped my create for myself.



Dr. Christo Dru '08

Dr. Dru earned his medical degree from Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and is currently completing surgical training at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Can you provide an outline of events and timeline of your life and career since graduation from USD and leading up to where you are now?

After graduating from USD, I moved to Chicago to attending medical school at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. The hours of work were grueling at times, but there were still plenty of opportunities to relax and enjoy the city. I even managed to find a nice girl who agreed to marry me! The winters were definitely a shock compared to the Southern California beach weather, but living in Chicago was great and I have many fond memories of the people and the city. After finishing medical school, I started an anesthesiology residency in Los Angeles, CA. However, after completing the first year of training, I decided that I wanted to become a surgeon. I took a year off to work in a uro-oncology research lab and then successfully matched into a urologic surgery residency at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. I am currently in my first year of surgical training. Between residencies, I got married to a wonderful women named Katie. She is in attorney specializing in healthcare law. We have a little yappy lap dog named Luca. The research year was also a nice chance to spend more time with my mom, dad, and brother, Alex, who live nearby in Phoenix. Alex (USD class of 2010) is finishing his third year of medical school at UofA and is planning to become a neurosurgeon.

How did your USD education prepare you for success in your career?

The educational environment is unique at USD in that you and the professor have an ongoing dialogue both in and out of the classroom, instead of simply being lectured to three times per week. In medicine, there are rarely one sided conversations. I have found that the best patient care comes from an evolving and dynamic discussion about what is working v what is not working. At USD, in my science classes and labs especially, a lot of the learning was collaborative. Teaching yourself and teaching others while getting real-time feedback about what makes sense and what doesn't fostered intellectual curiosity. I learned how to effectively communicate while at USD. As minor of a detail as that sounds on paper, it has had a tremendous impact on my career.

When/how did you decide on a career in the medicine?

I never had one of those "ah ha!" moments that many people do when they decide on a career in medicine. I have always liked science. Growing up, my Mom would stuff the Christmas stockings with fun toys that stimulated a fascination with chemistry/biology/physics. One in particular was called "smoke screen in a cap." Adding a few drops of water to this black powder created a reaction that burst into flames and filled the room with smoke. Those were fun times. I knew I wanted to be a scientist, but didn't have any comprehension of what that even meant. Coming to USD allowed me to harness that passion and focus it into a viable career. During my time at USD, I did research with Dr. Bolender and Dr. Malachowski. With Dr. Bolender, I traveled to Mexico to help collect data for his water quality research project. Spending time with the residents of Puerto San Carlos lit a fire in me to help people. It was a rush knowing that our work positively impacted their lives. With Dr. Malachowski, I synthesized different ferrocene-based metal complexes. This experience taught me how to be methodical, have patience, and be precise. I fondly remember working late on Friday afternoons in the lab with Dr. Malachowski and Ryan Wallenberg '07. A career in medicine represented a melding of these two experiences, and I am grateful to have been able to share in both.

Can you describe a typical day in your professional life?

Despite avoiding early morning classes at USD, I have definitely become a morning person. I usually get to the hospital each morning at 5:30am. I touch base with the overnight team to discuss any new admissions or emergent cases. I then go see each of my patients to make sure he or she is progressing appropriately after surgery. The rest of the day is split between operating in the OR and seeing clinic patients. Urology is a surgical sub-specialty focusing on the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and genitals. We perform a variety of oncologic surgical resections from these organs and also treat many benign conditions such as kidney stones, urinary incontinence, and infertility. I typically finish each day and head home around 6:30pm. Some days are busier than others, but for the most part, there is not much down time. What I like most about urology is that each day tends to be varied and mixed; I never get bored. Its the perfect combination of clinical medicine and surgical procedures. Urology tends to be a very happy field because we cure patients of very debilitating problems and get them back to state of normal, or near normal, health.


What advice to you have for current USD student considering medical school and a similar career path?

See what is out there. There are so many different healthcare fields (medicine, podiatry, dental, nursing, veterinary, etc), and it important to try to learn about several before making the decision which to enter. There are many ways to get involved with these fields and a great place to start is with the pre-health office on campus. Live in the moment. It is so easy to look towards the next big step in life that you don't focus on the present. While at USD, my next goal was to get into medical school. I worked extremely hard to accomplish that goal. Once in medical school, I worked even harder to get a residency. Now I'm in residency, and I'm already looking towards the goal of fellowships. I have to force myself to relax and enjoy being in the moment. Each of these stages of life isn't just about reaching the next target. If you can't strike some sort of balance in terms of education, relaxation, and social life you are bound to be unhappy. At the end of the day, medicine is just a job. Being balanced and content in your personal life will greatly effect that way you care for patients, interact with colleagues, and treat your family.

Be flexible. Very rarely in life does everything work out exactly how you plan. I matched into an anesthesiology residency at my first choice program after medical school. The next 4 years of my life were set, and there was nothing that was going to change that. Until I realized that my true medical passion was surgery. I was faced with the choice of finishing out the anesthesiology residency and being content but not passionate about my career, or quitting my program and rolling the dice. It was the hardest, most stressful, and difficult decision I have ever had to make. In the end, I took the chance and was able to land the new residency. I couldn't be happier with the decision but the stress involved was unbearable at times. If I hadn't been able to get a urologic surgery residency, I don't know what I would have done. But in the end, a medical degree is useful in so many ways, and I would have searched for something else to make me happy. Be flexible and do what makes you happy even if it means taking a big risk. Don't settle in anything you do.

What do you value the most about your USD education?

The people, most definitely, and the ability to learn in an academic environment with passionate teachers, motivated and collegial peers, and great weather. I developed friendships with several of the freshman in San Miguel in the missions, many of whom were able to come out to my wedding, that will last for years to come.



Ms. Jeannie Ziff (Arruda) '98

Ms. Ziff is currently a Senior Associate Scientist at Johnson and Johnson in La Jolla where she has been working for just over 3 years. Ms. Ziff has almost 15 years of experience in local industry having worked at Amira Pharmaceuticals, Merck and SIBIA Neuroscience.

Can you provide an outline of events and timeline of your life and career since graduation from USD and leading up to where you are now?

The summer after I graduated from USD I did an internship at a local company called Agouron Pharmaceuticals. When that was completed I found out about open positions in industry in San Diego through people I had met through the internship and through Dr. Dwyer who had been my research advisor at USD. I ended up accepting a position at SIBIA Neursoscienes in La Jolla. I was there for about a year before the company was acquired by Merck Research Laboratories. The company grew quickly then and moved to a new location. I was at Merck for 4 years and worked on several projects in different therapeutic areas before Merck decided to close the site in San Diego. The job market at the time in San Diego was pretty good and there were open positions at several companies. Most of the chemists that wanted to stay in San Diego ended up with several job offers. The head of chemistry at Merck was able to acquire venture capital funding and for a team of chemists and biologists from Merck to form a startup company. The company was called Amira Pharmaceuticals and I was part of the team that formed the start up. My time at Amira was quite busy personally, I got married while working there. Professionally it was busy as well since working for a start up company is quite demanding and everyone takes on many different roles. I was at Amira for 5 years before they cut back on research personnel to enable clinical research. When I left Amira I obtained the position I am currently in at Johnson and Johnson as a part of the Neuroscience team. Since I have been at JnJ my husband and I have welcomed daughter Sydney in to our lives.

How did your USD education prepare you for success in your career?

The opportunity to do undergraduate research was the most important factor in helping to prepare me for a career in research. It gave me the basis for working in a lab environment and also set me part from other people applying for bachelors level jobs after graduation.

When/how did you decide on a career in research?

I decided to continue my career in research shortly after the transition from SIBIA to Merck. I learned a lot quickly during that time and realized that I really enjoyed the process of drug discovery and working as part of a team of scientists.

Can you describe a typical day in your professional life?

My primary role at my job is to design and synthesis of molecules for a neuroscience drug discovery project. I usually start the day by reading and answering emails and planning what reactions need to be done for the day. I also check the project database for new data that could affect what target molecules I am planning to synthesize. I set up my reactions and carry out necessary purifications and the analytical experiments needed to characterize the compounds. There are often chemistry project team meetings and visiting speaker seminars to attend.

What stands out for you about your time as a student at USD that prepared you the most for your career/present position?

I have to point to undergraduate research again here. It was my first experience in learning how to plan out your days working in a lab and applying problem solving skills you learn in lab classes.

What advice to you have for current USD student considering research and a similar career path?

Apply for summer internship programs at local companies and do as much undergraduate research as you are able to do. Create a network for yourself and maintain it. Keep in contact with your professors and people you meet who are in industry. If you are given and opportunity to present your research take it. It is important to be able to speak about your scientific research to your peers and colleagues.

What do you value the most about your USD education?

The mentoring that the professors at USD provide is priceless. Almost 20 years later if I had a major career decision to make I would still check in with my former advisors who I now hold as dear friends to hear their advice.



Dr. Joanna Masters (Cole) '07

Dr. Cole earned her PharmD at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, UCSD. She is currently a Clinical Pharmacology Lead (Manager) in Biotechnology Clinical Development, Oncology Early Phase Development, at Pfizer in La Jolla.

Can you provide an outline of events and timeline of your life and career since graduation from USD and leading up to where you are now? Feel free to include personal and professional details, but we leave that up to you.

After graduating from USD in 2007, I spent much of the next year volunteering abroad with medical missions in Central America and West Africa. I then started my 4-year Doctor of Pharmacy program at UC San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Upon completion of my PharmD, I chose to pursue a career in clinical research, and did a post-doctoral fellowship in clinical pharmacology. My most recent transition has been to take a position as a clinical pharmacology lead at Pfizer in La Jolla, working in oncology clinical trials.
And also in the meantime, I married a fellow USD alum!

How did your USD education prepare you for success in graduate school?

Besides being very well-equipped for rigorous scientific coursework, I feel that the critical thinking and communication skills, as well as the emphasis on professionalism at USD were keys to my success in pharmacy school.

When/how did you decide on your current career?

When I chose to attend USD as a high school senior, I was intrigued by the potential of a career in the health field, and pharmacy in particular. However while completing my undergraduate degree in chemistry, I found I really enjoyed research. Pharmacy education and training in clinical pharmacology provided a great blend of the two interests, and my current career has allowed me to pursue both passions.

Can you describe a typical day in your professional life?

Each day I work as part of a clinical team of physicians, statisticians and other scientists and professionals to design, manage, and interpret early phase clinical trials in oncology patients. I also work on mathematical models to understand and predict the kinetics, efficacy, and safety of drugs, in order to determine the optimal dose and dosing regimen for a particular patient.

What stands out for you about your time as a student at USD that prepared you the most for your career/present position?

The great hands-on experiences I had while collaborating on research projects with USD chemistry faculty, such as Dr. Tahmassebi and Dr. Dwyer, definitely inspired and prepared me for my steps after USD. Also, the rigorous academic standards in both the sciences as well as the liberal arts have proven extremely valuable.

What advice do you have for current USD student considering a similar career path?

Clinical pharmacology is not a field or career I knew of during my undergraduate education, however for anyone interested in scientific research and the clinical impact it can have on patients, I would suggest keeping it in mind as a possible career. It is a very exciting and challenging field!

What do you value the most about your USD education?

Choosing to attend a smaller, student-focused university was the best choice I have made in my education. The faculty support was phenomenal, and so much richer than that found in most other undergrad programs, particularly in the sciences. To have top-notch scientific training paired with the diversity of a well-rounded liberal arts education is a great preparation for any career. Furthermore, the fact that USD’s mission centers not just on academic achievement, but also on personal growth and development in all areas of life, is something I value more and more as I start my career.

Faculty Research Programs Back to top

Benz Group

From left to right: Dr. Tian, Dr. Benz, Amber Mosier (’15) and Andrew Cerro (’14).     


The Benz group welcomed our first postdoctoral scholar last fall, Dr. Fangyuan Tian, a surface chemist with a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Delaware.  Dr. Tian has joined the efforts of the lab in the preparation and investigation of nanoporous hybrid films.  Dr. Tian is fully integrated into the group and is already making great progress on her work on the study of CO2 adsorption!  We also began our first external collaboration with the Johal group at Pomona College, which has been fantastic as Dr. Tian and our students have been working together with the Johal group to use complementary techniques to answer some questions related to ongoing projects in both labs.   

The Benz group has welcomed a number of new group members since the last report:  Amber Mosier (’15), Ryan Shine (’14), Andres Gomez (Mater Dei High School, now a freshman at UCSD), Hanna Larson (’15), and Kendall Kehr (’16).  Several members of the group recently attended the national American Chemical Society Meeting in Dallas, TX, where Dr. Benz received a 2014 Rising Star Award from the ACS Women Chemists Committee, and Andrew Cerro (’14) and Amber Mosier (’15) presented a terrific poster in the Division of Colloid and Surface Chemistry.

Some group Alumni news: Miranda Stratton (’13) graduated and begun working towards a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology at Stanford University.  Karen Cesafsy (’12) started graduate school at Purdue University and is currently in the lab of Professor Graham Cooks pursuing her passion for cutting-edge mass spectrometry. Tran Le (’13) began pharmacy school at UCSD following a successful series of interviews.  Congratulations to all of you!!  We are looking forward to another great year.


Bolender Group

Found in the bookstore of the University of Cape Town!


Research in the Bolender lab continues to take on a multipronged approach, focusing on water quality issues and on the chemistry of lanthanide based nanocrystals. Over the past year, Adan Cortez (Biochem ’15) and Nessa Seangmany (Biochem ’14) have made great progress on our arsenic filtration device. They have found a reagent mixture where one gram of material can take one liter of water at 10 times the World Health Organization limit of arsenic to levels that are undetectable with current instrumentation at USD. We were even able to remove arsenic from water with a very passive technique by putting our reagents into a “tea bag” and suspending this in our contaminated water for 48 hours. We hope these studies will lead to real world filtration devices for the removal of arsenic.

Research on my nanocrystal projects continues to progress with Allison Ferrer (Biochem ’15), Sarah Baker (Biochem ’15), Alex Jackson (Chem ’14) and Raymond Sullivan (Chem ’14) working on various aspects of this work. Raymond and Alex are finishing up a project that we hope to submit for publication this summer.


Clark Group


The past summer (2013) represented the largest the Clark group has ever been, resulting in a busy but very productive summer of research. During that summer there were 8 undergraduate students, a high school teacher, a part-time technician, and the transition between two post-doctoral research associates. The result of all this activity was a lively and exuberant environment for undergraduate research. This year, four of the students will graduate from USD, three of these students have applied or will apply for graduate school and one will apply to medical school.

Group picture from the summer of 2013

Some specific recent accomplishments by Clark research group members:

  • Alexandra Heller was the recipient of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry Alumni Summer Research Fellowship.
  • Wendy Guan was awarded a USD SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience) fellowship during the summer of 2013.
  • Marissa Ringgold and Alexi Duenas received NSF supplemental awards for summer research.
  • Casey Medina (previous undergraduate) was a co-author on a recent paper published in the Journal of Organic Chemistry.
  • Timothy Ramseyer (undergraduate) and Kristina Crawford (technician) are co-authors on a manuscript submitted to Angewandte Chemie International Edition.
  • Wendy Guan (undergraduate), Liza Koren-Selfridge (previous undergraduate), Alicia Michael (previous undergraduate), and John Scott (previous undergraduate) are co-authors on a manuscript submitted to the Journal of Organic Chemistry.
  • Dr. Clark was chosen as one of the award recipients at the Fall 2013 ACS Meeting Young Investigator Symposium in the division of organic chemistry.
  • Marissa Ringgold, Peter Cannamela, Wendy Guan, Timothy Ramseyer and Kristina Crawford gave poster presentations at the 2013 National Organic Symposium in Seattle, WA and the Fall 2013 ACS National Meeting in Indianapolis, IN


Daley Group

Dr. Daley has been on sabbatical, but for 2014-2015, you can follow the Daley Group progress on our webpage at If you are a Daley Group alumnus, please contact Dr. Daley with updates so that we can keep your page up to date with all your latest and greatest exploits!



de haan group

The De Haan group studies reactions between compounds found in clouds, fog, and aerosol particles, looking for the fastest and “brownest” reactions possible in the atmosphere, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. Aerosol particles tend to get browner as they float through the atmosphere, but the cause of this browning is unknown. It’s also important: brown particles absorb light and heat up the planet, and so eliminating brown particles could provide an additional way to limit climate change.

The De Haan group summer 2013 research crew, L to R: Michelle Powelson (’14), Dr. Melissa Galloway (postdoctoral researcher), Dr. De Haan, Alyssa Rodriguez (‘15), Nazin Sedehi (’14), and Mike Symons (’15).

Michelle Powelson and Kristin Sullivan have been using the particle chamber to study water uptake of aldehyde – ammonium sulfate mixtures. Ryan Sueme has been studying the reaction of aldehydes with sulfur dioxide, recently finding a second combination that makes light-absorbing products. In experiments conducted on the roof of the science building, Kyle Sharp and high school intern Miles Johnson have been characterizing the ability of aldehyde – amine mixtures to turn brown in sunlight. Mike, Alyssa, and Mater Dei High School student Alexia De Loera used NMR to measure the rates of hydroxyacetone and glycolaldehyde reactions as a function of pH. Taylor Kress and Anastasia Osowski used LC-UV-MS to pick out and identify light-absorbing products in glycolaldehyde reaction mixtures. Nazin, Johnny Sharghi and Viktoria Cummings used LCMS to study the reaction rates of aldehydes with a simple protein, since proteins are also present in clouds and aerosol particles.
Finally, Paula Cepeda analyzing ancient pottery from USD’s May Collection for cacao residue, a joint project with the anthropology department started by Don Millar.

In October, Michelle, Alyssa, and Mike travelled with Dr. Galloway and Dr. De Haan to Portland, OR. All five presented their research at the annual meeting of the American Association for Aerosol Research.


Dwyer Group


Our group has worked on a couple of different projects in the last year and made terrific progress on each. Joseph Avila (Biochem ’14) and Eric Arnold (Biochem ’14) completed most of the chemical shift assignments on a novel DNA duplex containing side-by-side non-natural base pairs (in collaboration with Floyd Romesberg at TSRI). Walter Henderson (Biochem ’14) and Serinna Singh (Biochem ’15) completed all proton chemical shift assignments on three DNA hairpin sequences – each having the same “stem” sequence and one containing the T4 loop, one with FT3 and one with F2T2 (where “F” is difluorotoluene, a thymine nucelobase mimic). We have compiled a wealth of structural information and hope to complete structural modeling in the near future. Walter traveled with me to the ACS National Convention in Dallas, TX in March 2014 to present a poster that was chosen for Sci-Mix. In the picture, Walter and Serinna presented their work at Creative Collaborations.


Iovine Group

Research in the Iovine Group continues to evolve and push out in new directions. We consider ourselves a soft materials group now–mostly focused on synthesizing and studying new polymeric materials for applications in the biomedical space. We are especially interested in utilizing organic chemistry to creatively modify biopolymers. It is fun work and students continue to make deep contributions to all aspects of the projects. For more technical details or a listing of our recent papers, check out our website ( or follow us on twitter (@peteriovine).

Several Iovine Research Group members “left the nest” just after the spring 2013 semester. Jeff O’Brien, a long time group member, graduated in December 2012 but continued work during the spring semester. Jeff was the recipient of the 2013 “Outstanding Achievement in Chemistry” award and the “ACS Excellence in Organic Chemistry Award”. Jeff recently began his Ph.D. at UC Irvine with Ken Shea ( and reports that the surfing is not quite as good as San Diego but he is dealing. Another group member, Gabriel Short, graduated in May 2013 and won the 2013 “Departmental Award for Research Excellence”. Gabe started his Ph.D. in chemistry at the University of Florida soon after. Gabriel reports that classes were challenging but he is excited to begin his independent research project(s). Gabriel has joined the lab of Stephen A. Miller ( developing new polymers from biorenewable feedstocks. Best of luck Gabe! Kayleen Fulton also graduated in 2013 and started her research career. Kayleen moved to Alaska and began work at the Prince William Sound Science Center. Kayleen will apply to graduate school in the fall 2014.

As many of you know, summers are buzzing with activity. The number of students doing research has exploded and there is even now a summer scholars program. Once again, during the 2013 summer, the Iovine lab participated in a NSF-sponsored program called Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU). We are actually part of a consortium that includes: Macalaster College (MN), Grand Valley State University (MI), Trinity University (TX), Northern Kentucky University (KY), and Colby College (ME). Two Iovine group members participated in the 2013 program: Cassandra Reese and Yael Levine. We attended 2 meetings and both students did a fantastic job presenting their research in San Diego. Cassandra will graduate this spring (’14) and has matriculated to the University of Southern Mississippi’s School for Polymers and High Performance Materials Ph.D. program. Yael is working with another USD grad at a local biotech company and finishing-up her coursework at Southwestern College.

Here is a complete listing of our summer 2013 research group: Jason Nettleton, Cassandra Reese, McKenzie Tolan, Kayleen Fulton, Sophia Ederaine, Yael Levine, and Dr. Lisa Ryno. McKenzie Tolan will be graduating this spring (2014) after a long run in the lab. Kenzie has made deep contributions across multiple projects; her hard work has paid off as we have just submitted a manuscript that lists her as a coauthor. Congrats McKenzie and all other coauthors. Kenzie is taking a year off after graduation but will attend medical school next fall.

Dr. Lisa Ryno came to USD from the Scripps Research Institute. Her postdoctoral position was funded by NSF and her research focused on studying inclusion complexes of amylose and small molecules. In just one year, Lisa co-authored two papers, mentored several undergraduate students in the lab, taught general chemistry laboratory and biochemistry lecture, and landed a tenure track faculty position at Oberlin College! Lisa will be leaving the group in June 2014; we wish her all the best as she begins her independent academic career.


Malachowski Group

Malachowski’s group continues to work on synthesizing new dipyrromethenes ligands and binding them to metal ions. His students (Michael Acosta, David Peters, Delora Faaborg, Taryn Parsons and Marissa Reyes) have made some nice advances this year on their work and have made some new, interesting compounds. Lost of organic reactions have been done and some of them have led to nice, pure products. The copper, nickel and cobalt complexes of the dipyrromethenes are beautiful as they are brightly colored and highly crystalline and the students have become very proficient at purifying and analyzing them. With the amazing help of Dr. Daley, we were able to solve the structures of quite a few new complexes this year and we have hundreds of crystallizations going on at all times in the lab. The students presented two posters at USD’s Research Day Celebration this April, 2014 detailing their results.

Dr. Malachowski continues to travel extensively to conferences, gives talks on various campuses and offers workshops to campuses interested in doing more undergraduate research. Since last spring, he has traveled to New Jersey, Washington, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Virginia, Oklahoma, Indiana, Wisconsin, Nevada, Florida and Louisiana giving presentations. A good deal of this time was taken up by running workshops describing the wonders and challenges of undergraduate research to faculty and administrators at many other universities. This work continues to grow as more schools are interested in doing undergraduate research with more students in more disciplines. He is still working on his $1,000,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to work with state systems of higher education. This work has been extremely rewarding as he has been able to work with over 500 schools and 2,500 faculty and administrators and has raised the undergraduate research and USD flag to all of these participants.

Dr. Malachowski also has continued to pursue his work on the impact of undergraduate research on students and student learning and published a series of articles and chapters in books on this topic during 2013-2014. In these articles, he argues strongly for the need for research that focuses on contributing to our disciplines along with having a positive impact on students and student learning.




Team Provost is new on the scene, but already dominating the couches in the hall adjacent to SCST 425 and making lots of noise in the lab. We have eight students working this year and look to have a good bunch of student researchers this summer. Last August, Lea Kiefer helped by moving and unpacking boxes and put up with an entropy-filled start to the lab. Joining us shortly was Randall Clendenen, Emily Frey, Andrea Zammet, Taylor Cottle, Dan Hasle, and no one can forget (and he won’t let us forget) Jevaughn Davis. Our group is working to define how the sodium hydrogen transporter (NHE) is regulated by two proteins Calcineurin Homologous Protein 1 and 2 (CHP1 & CHP2). The work is to focus on these novel and interesting set of cancer-specific interacting proteins that tumor cells use to survive the harsh conditions of a growing and metastatic tumor environment. Using this information we will then design and evaluate a potential molecular therapeutic approach to stopping the invasion and metastasis of a chemotherapy resistant form of lung cancer. The work is exciting and progressing nicely. Several of Team Provost will be presenting their work at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Annual meeting in San Diego this Spring! In addition to this work, Provost has been awarded an NSF grant to support undergraduate students, faculty from undergraduate institutions and to increase access to students from underserved populations to create a culture of inclusion at the ASBMB annual meeting. This is the third award Provost has lead in support of biochemistry undergraduates and faculty. This fall and winter, two manuscripts were accepted for publication, both in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education. One paper was a large collaboration investigating the essential concepts of supporting sciences for an undergraduate biochemistry degree. The second paper was part of Provost’s efforts to train students for positions in industry and how laboratory notebooks can integrate standard operating procedures. We hope to finish a couple of those pesky final experiments to submit a manuscript on the phosphorylation of NHE by RhoA Kinase later this year. We were honored to host an ASBMB regional meeting with 30 faculty and postdocs from AZ and CA at USD where the workshop developed teaching tools and assessment for foundational biochemistry education. This February, Provost was elected to his third term as a Councilor for the chemistry division of the Council on Undergraduate Research. He continues to serve on the Educational and Professional Development Committee for the ASBMB and is working on the first year of ASBMB Accreditation and standard exam.


Tahmassebi Group

Debbie photo

Last year I spent my sabbatical as an ACE Fellow, a program designed to provide leadership in Higher Education training and experience. I spent the year working in the President’s Office at Loyola Marymount University and visiting a variety of Universities including UDLAP, a private University in Puebla, Mexico (picture). Upon returning to USD this year, I took on the temporary role of Special Assistant to the Provost. My responsibilities included the oversight of the Offices of Undergraduate Research and Sponsored Programs. Both of the offices underwent considerable re-organization and I have enjoyed working with a group of very talented staff and administrators. Much of my attention during the year was focused on furthering undergraduate research and increasing opportunities and support for interdisciplinary collaborative research. Starting in July, I will move around again and become one of the Associate Deans in the College of Arts and Sciences. I look forward to working with Dean Noelle Norton to take on new challenges on behalf of the College.

Recent Faculty Publications - *undergraduate co-authors Back to top

Recent Publications from the Department

Wallert M.A. and Provost J.J. Integrating standard operating procedures and industry notebook standards to evaluate students in laboratory courses. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education 2014. 42(1): 41 – 49.

L. N. Hawkins,# M. J. Baril,* N. Sedehi,* M. M. Galloway,# D. O. De Haan, G. P. Schill, M. A. Tolbert, “Formation of semi-solid, oligomerized aqueous SOA: cloud and aerosol lab simulations,” Environ. Sci. Technol. (in press, 2014) doi: 10.1021/es4049626.

G. P. Schill, D. O. De Haan, M. A. Tolbert, “Heterogeneous ice nucleation on simulated secondary organic aerosol,” Environ. Sci. Technol. 48 (3) 1675-1682 (2014) doi: 10.1021/es4046428.

M. H. Powelson,* B. M. Espelien,* L. N. Hawkins,# M. M. Galloway,# D. O. De Haan, “Brown carbon formation by aqueous-phase aldehyde reactions with amines and ammonium sulfate,” Environ. Sci. Technol. 48 (2) 985-993 (2014) doi: 10.1021/es4038325.

Medina, C.; Carter, K. P.; Miller, M.; Clark, T. B.; O’Neil, G. W. “Stereocontrolled Synthesis of 1,3-Diols from Enones: Cooperative Lewis Base-Mediated Intramolecular Carbonyl Hydrosilylations” J. Org. Chem. 2013, 78, 9093–9101.

Wright A, Provost J, Roecklein-Canfield JA, Bell E., Essential Concepts and Underlying Theories from Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics for "Biochemistry and Molecular Biology" majors.  Biochem Mol Biol Educ. 2013 Sep-Oct;41(5):302-8. doi: 10.1002/bmb.20728. Epub 2013 Sep 10.

Roeklein-Canfield, J., Wright, A.W., Provost J.J., and Bell, E.B., Essential Concepts & Underlying Theories from Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics for the Molecular Life Sciences, In Press BAMBED 2013.

Kua, J.; Avila, J. E.; Lee, C. J.; Smith, W. D. J. Phys. Chem. A, 2013, 117, 12658-12667. "Mapping the Kinetic and Thermodynamic Energy Landscape of Formaldehyde Oligomerization under Neutral Conditions."

“Improving the compostability of natural fiber-reinforced thermoset composites with a tertiary oil phase,” T. Ngo, C. Lambert, L. Benz, M. Chau, Polymer-Plastics Technology and Engineering, 52(7) 710, (2013).

"Adsorption of dibenzothiophene and fluorene on TiO2(110) and supported Ag clusters," E.R. Webster, A. Park, M. B. Stratton, V. C. Park, A. M. Mosier, R. S. Shine and L. Benz, Energy and Fuels, 27(11) 6575, (2013).

Mitchell R. Malachowski, “Connecting Undergraduate Research to an Institution’s Core Mission,” chapter in, “How to Get Started in STEM Research with Undergraduates,” Ed.; Merle Schuh, Council on Undergraduate Research, 2013.

Gregory D. Severn and James P. Bolender “A Note on the Gyromagnetic Properties of Hydrogens.”, submitted to American Journal of Physics, May 2012, revised, accepted February 5, 2013.

N. Sedehi,* H. Takano,* V. A. Blasic,* K. A. Sullivan,* and D. O. De Haan, “Temperature- and pH-dependent aqueous-phase kinetics of the reactions of glyoxal and methylglyoxal with atmospheric amines and ammonium sulfate,” Atmos. Environ. 77 656-663 (2013) doi: 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2013.05.070.

J. Kua, M. M. Galloway,# K. D. Millage,* J. Avila,* and D. O. De Haan, “Glycolaldehyde Monomer and Oligomer Equilibria in Aqueous Solution: Comparing Computational Chemistry and NMR Data," J. Phys. Chem. A 117 (14) 2997 – 3008 (2013) doi: 10.1021/jp312202j.